A leader in the Enlightenment, Jefferson was a polymath in the arts, sciences, and politics. Considered an important architect in the classical tradition, he designed his home Monticello and other notable buildings. Jefferson was keenly interested in science, invention, architecture, religion, and philosophy; he was an active member and eventual president of the American Philosophical Society. He was conversant in French, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, and studied other languages and linguistics, interests which led him to found the University of Virginia after his presidency. Although not a notable orator, Jefferson was a skilled writer and corresponded with many influential people in America and Europe throughout his adult life. After Martha Jefferson, his wife of eleven years, died in 1782, Jefferson kept his promise to her that he would never remarry. Their marriage had produced six children, of whom two survived to adulthood.
As long as he lived, Jefferson expressed opposition to slavery, yet he owned hundreds of slaves and freed only a few of them. Historians generally believe that after the death of his wife Jefferson had a long-term relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, and fathered some or all of her children. Although criticized by many present-day scholars over the issues of racism and slavery, Jefferson is consistently rated as one of the greatest U.S. presidents. The third of ten children, Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 (April 2, 1743 OS) at the family home in a one and a half story farmhouse not far from the Virginia wilderness. According to his autobiography, Jefferson's earliest memory was being handed to a slave on horseback and carried 50 miles away to their new home which overlooked the Rivanna River near Richmond, in Shadwell, Goochland County, Virginia, now part of Albemarle County. Much of his correspondence to relatives makes mention of this memory. His father was Peter Jefferson, a planter and surveyor who died when Jefferson was